Tuesday, November 28, 2017

#BookReview: A House for Mr. Misra by Jaishree Misra

On the blurb:

‘Whatever came over me? Agreeing to move to the other side of the world was mad enough but to build a house slap bang against one of the widest, wildest oceans in the world?’
And so begins a journey of hope and anxiety as the author and her husband, the phlegmatic Mr M, set off to build their beachside home in Kerala. The obstacles are many and mostly unexpected, like neighbours waving cutlasses over the wall, venomous snakes and mercenary union men at the gate, not to mention a large and complicated piece of legislation called the Coastal Regulation Zone.
Obstacles, however, are meant to be overcome and so they are, with some quick thinking and a few helpful friends, an honest cop and an equally straight-talking scientist, and Excel sheets pulled up on demand to outwit corrupt builders. All of which make for a great story, filled with laughter and despair, and sharp yet good-humoured insights into the Malayali way of life.


I'd read Jaishree Misra a few years ago and quite loved the book. i've often wondered if she'd written more but never got around to read any more of her work. Recently, I saw the cover of A House for Mr Misra and I was sold. What a beautiful cover. Not only is it attractive, if made me wonder and wonder what the story is about!

Coming to the story, it begins with a couple who have come back to live in India and are on a lookout of a house they'd want to buy and make their own space. The story has been written in an autobiographical manner and revolves around the Misras - the author and her husband, and their house in Kerala. 

Back to India from London, the couple decide to settle in Trivandrum, the author's hometown. The house they fall in love with and want to buy comes with a lot of baggage and issues. The story goes back and forth in time and a lot of if from the past, the present if when the house is being bought and remodelled as per their requirements. From resistance coming from local goons against buying the house, to rules and regulations regarding construction they were to undertake to remodel the house - the story takes you through life in Kerala in a very beautiful manner. 

A short, breezy and entertaining read this book is something I'd happily refer to someone as a sunny, winter afternoon read.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

#BookReview: Turtles All The Way Down

On the jacket:

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. 

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.


“The worst part of being truly alone is you think about all the times you wished that everyone would just leave you be. 
Then they do, and you are left being, and you turn out to be terrible company.” 

I love how John Green writes. He is one of my writer goals. While I love his style of writing, I must also admit that his stories leave my exhausted and overwhelmed. Yet as it happens every time  book of his releases, I must read them, to soak in his style of writing. Like all the books I have read before, Turtles All The Way Down too left me anxious and stunned.

Th cover of the book is unlike any John Green book, while his overs usually are really attractive. What made up for the unattractive cover is the  jacket poster on the inside of the jacket. However, as you read the book, you begin to realise why the cover looks like it does and after some time it starts to make sense. 

Aza and Daisy, her best friend, on Daisy's insistence embark on a journey to find  Russell Picket whose son, she'd studied with. Teenagers with eloquent vocabularies with lifelong friendships, fighting existential crisis are common to John Green novels and here too we have Aza, trying to deal with her issues.  She and her best friend decide to take part in finding a rich man who seems to have disappeared. The characters are relatable and the friendships enviable. Aza Holmes are her fight with mental illness, trying so hard to be the best she could be - I wish I'd read both her when I was 16. 

It's been a day since I've finished reading the book and I am still overwhelmed. If you are a John Green fan, you must've already read the book. If you haven't, go grab it. The six year wait has been well worth it.

Monday, November 6, 2017

#BookReview: The Boys Who Fought: The Mahabharata for Children by Devdutt Pattanaik

On the jacket:

‘When you can fight for the meek without hating the mighty, you follow dharma.’
In the forest, the mighty eat the meek. In human society, the mighty should take care of the meek. This is dharma. A hundred princes should look after their five orphaned cousins. Instead, they burnt their house, abused their wife and stole their kingdom. The five fought back, not for revenge but, for dharma. What came of the hundred’s fight against the five?
India’s favourite mythologist brings to you this charmingly illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata that is sure to illuminate and enthrall a new generation of readers.


My oldest memory of the Mahabharata was a picture book, sort of a comic with pictures and text next to them, which my father used to read out to me when I couldn't read. It was a post lunch ritual. It was read out to me so many times that I remembered the story by the pictures and if he even skipped a page or two out of boredom from reading it every day, I knew he'd skipped a part! I still remember all the pictures of the book - it, along with few other such books, was my first introduction to Hindu mythology.
That was in the 80s. Ever since, I've never seen the great stories simplified for children, or maybe children now aren't read the stories any more. Either way, Devdutt Pattanaik has made knowing, reading and enjoying these stories easier and more enjoyable with his art of precise storytelling and all the artwork.
In The Boys Who Fought, Pattanaik has told the story in his signature style with animated sketches which not only enthral but also captivated. Each page also has important tidbits and information which, because written separately, have more impact on the mind. Pages also have these boxes where children will derive basic yet important moral science lessons from. Pattanaik has also included in the book, information pertaining to different versions of the Mahabharata wherever applicable. The story is told in its broad sense and is ideal to acquaint children to the crux of the story. As they grow older, they can be introduced to the finer sections of the story.
Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, November 5, 2017

#BookReview: Murder In Paharganj by Kulpreet Yadav

On the jacket:

On a cold December morning, a white woman is found murdered in a cheap hotel in Paharganj, New Delhi. Vicks Menon, an out-of-work journalist, is tipped off by the hotel's receptionist and is the first to arrive at the crime scene, where he discovers a lead. It's the bus ticket used by the dead woman two days earlier. But Vicks is battling personal trouble. He has no money, an alcohol problem, and a nearly broken relationship with Tonya, his estranged live-in partner, a clinical psychologist who specializes in profiling hardened criminals. Moving in and out of the shadows, Vicks pushes his investigation harder as it takes him from Udaipur to Bangkok. On his side, for resources, he has a nameless intelligence operative, and to read minds, a lover who is beginning to trust him again. But above all, his instinct to stay inches ahead of death will be the key to his survival. If Vicks lives, this is one story that will change his life forever.


Anybody who knows my reading habits knows how much I love a good mystery. Leave me in a bookstore and I'd walk towards the mystery/thriller section. While there is an abundance of good mystery novels in the global market, I'd love to see Indian authors making their mark in the  genre as well. If we look at present day authors, it would be wrong to say that some aren't trying to disrupt the trend and create a stable position for mysteries and thrillers, because they are.

When I chanced upon the opportunity to read Murder in Paharganj, I said yes without reading the blurb. This was to be my first read of Kulpreet Yadav's work as well. I usually don't dissect stories too much and write my reviews on broader points, but hey, a murder mystery is all about the layers to come out, right? 

Jokes apart, while reading Murder in Pahargnj, I was quite stupefied when the killer was revealed quite early in the book. Let's start from the very beginning, where a white woman was found dead in a hotel room at Paharganj, with nothing else missing in the story. The hotel's employee who found the body, called his out-of-work journalist friend Vicks Menon. Vicks is trying to resurrect his career and had left a word with all his friends to be informed of any newsworthy incidence first. A few chapters later, the author reveals who the killer is, but here is where Vicks life turns into an adventure. 

The story travels across countries, to come back and settle in the Indian soil. The plot is gripping, no doubt. A lot keeps happening while different characters (and there are quite a few) move countries and have conversations. Religion, national security and fugitives - all comes out in the open, behind the death of a foreign national in India. The mystery isn't who killed, rather it is something the investigators land upon quite by chance and is something they never imagined it to be, all the while, chasing the murderer.

While I kept wanting to know what happens next, I also found something unsettling in the story. Probably, too many characters, all of whom are important to the story. There are quite a few sub-stories as well, all fit in 274 pages. While this was not the best mystery novel I've read, I cannot deny that Murder in Paharganj is a good step in the Indian literary scene. I hope there will be a series in the Vicks Menon Thriller.

In the end, I must add one thing I loved. The entire book had fresh characters which were creations of the author. Mentioning this, because I see many Indian authors name their characters/places/brands on existing prominent names/brands (parodying on the names) which takes away from the fictional flavour for me and honestly affects my reading experience. 

Rating: 3.5/5

#BookReview : The Shrine of Death by Divya Kumar

On the jacket:  Prabha Sinha, an IT professional in Chennai, is plunged into a murky world of idol theft, murder, and betrayal aft...